Five Reasons Why High School Seniors Need a Résumé

1). Highlight Your Ambition

A résumé is more than just a collection of your past and present work experiences. With a little bit of structure, it can let the reader know that you not only intend on moving toward a specific career goal but also have taken the appropriate steps to get there.

2). Demonstrate Your Values

Whether you’re applying for work as a part-time barista or competing for an internship at a law firm, your résumé should convey what you stand for. Are you a hard worker? Do you have integrity? What motivates you? Select experiences that prove your commitment to your values.

3). Illustrate your resilience

Nobody’s perfect. In fact, most successful people claim that their failures were invaluable, sometimes acting as the very things that got them to think differently or try harder. Your résumé
is the perfect place to demonstrate your challenges and, more importantly, how you overcame them.

4). Keep track of your accomplishments

A lot can happen during four years of high school. Keeping tabs on what you’ve done and when you did it will come in handy, especially when you start to write those pesky college application essays and supplements or scholarship apps. Trust me, a résumé will definitely simplify these processes!

5). Get a job!!

And, last but not least, you need a résumé to get a job. I know that some of you are probably thinking, “Michelle, my friend got a job last summer as a camp counselor, and she didn’t need a résumé.” Ok, yes, this is totally true…BUT, once you graduate from high school, the competition gets steeper. Learning how to create and use a résumé now will give you the opportunity to improve your résumé-building skills and become more comfortable presenting one to your potential employer (when it really counts).

What’s included in a high school résumé?

First and foremost, your résumé is a selling document. What does this mean? Well, when you stop and think about it, each of us has bought something in our lives. And, whether it was a sleek pair of jeans or a caramel-coated candy bar, the item we bought was marketed to us in some form or another. We looked at a colorful logo, watched a compelling advertisement, or read a positive review that convinced us to make our purchase.

On the other hand, we’ve all been the victims of false advertising, too. That plastic sword we loved cracked in half after one swing. Maybe that watermelon lip gloss in the bargain bin tasted like socks or our new pair of x-ray vision glasses only made us dizzy. In the end, a bad purchase will make us think twice if ever we encounter something that seems too good to be true.

You should take the same approach when writing your résumé. It should be honest, positive and realistic. Remember, employers have read like a million of these things, so they get pretty good at weeding out the fakers.

So, with that said, your résumé should definitely include things like:

  • Your Name and contact information—include a link to a social media profile (the more professional, the better!).
  • An Objective—you should tailor this statement to fit the position or goal you’re trying to obtain.
  • Academic background—include your class rank, GPA, SAT/ACT scores, and AP and honors classes and any other awards, scholarships or achievements that work in your favor.
  • School, volunteer, and extracurricular activities—be sure to keep your descriptions concise and avoid using repetitive language.
  • Work experience—the basics, like the company’s name, your position, job duties, accomplishments, and dates of employment, should be included for each of your jobs.
  • Your skills—this includes soft skills (e.g., communication, leadership, collaboration, etc.) and hard skills (e.g., typing, writing, accounting, etc.).
  • References—these can be teachers you’ve enjoyed learning from, coaches, former employers, or anyone who can vouch for you; however, they need to be relevant, reputable people in your life (not family members or random friends).

BTW, you can Download This Activity Tracker to help you organize all your experiences. It will make it way easier for you to not only tell your story but also build your résumé when the time comes. This should be a living document that you continue to update throughout high school.

Not sure how to tell your story? All it takes is two docs!

1). Cover letter
This document lays the groundwork for the reader and allows you to highlight certain details from your résumé. It’s like a movie preview. It gives you just enough to be interested but not too much so that you don’t want to find out how it ends. A good cover letter introduces the main character of the story (that’s you!) and sheds some light on: where you live, the problems or challenges you’ve overcome, and the dreams you want to achieve.

2). Résumé
If a cover letter is the emotional teaser that gets you hyped up, a résumé is a collection of facts. Another way of putting it might be to think of your cover letter as a fight promoter and your résumé as a boxer. The cover letter gets attention and the résumé backs it up.

Your résumé should summarize all your qualifications, skills, and achievements, while also displaying your ambition and values via the places you’ve elected to commit your time and attention to.

Some Final Tips

  • Be consistent with your measurements of time (think: months and years)
  • Don’t be shy!! Ask people (like teachers, parents, friends, or coaches) to confirm your dates and achievements
  • Be honest but positive
  • And remember, readers are looking for a reason to root for you, so make sure you give them one!!

Ready to try it yourself? Need some help?

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Joseph NovinsonMichelle Arundale is an employability consultant at Vested Academics. She helps students with learning differences and disabilities obtain and maintain competitive employment in integrated community workplaces.

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